computers mobile technology

IBM Teams Up With ARM for 14-nm Processing

iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro
Big, Little & Little-est!

Monday IBM announced a partnership with UK chip developer ARM to develop 14-nm chip processing technology. The news confirms the continuation of an alliance between both parties that launched back in 2008 with an overall goal to refine SoC density, routability, manufacturability, power consumption and performance.

via IBM Teams Up With ARM for 14-nm Processing.

Interesting that IBM is striking out so far away from the current state of the art processing node for silicon chips. 22nm or there abouts is the what most producers of flash memory are targeting for their next generation product. Smaller sizes mean more chips per wafer, higher density means storage sizes go up for both flash drives and SSDs without increasing in physical size (who wants to use brick sized external SSDs right?). Too, it is interesting that ARM is the partner with IBM for their farthest target yet in chip production design rule sizes. But it appears that System-on-Chip (SoC) designers like ARM are now state of the art producers of power and waste heat optimized computing. Look at Apple’s custom A4 processor for the iPad and iPhone. That chip has lower power requirements than any other chip on the market. It is currently leading the pack for battery life in the iPad (10 hours!). So maybe it does make sense to choose ARM right now as they can benefit the most and the fastest from any shrink in the size of the wire traces used to create a microprocessor or a whole integrated system on a chip. Strength built on strength, that’s a winning combination and shows that IBM and ARM have an affinity for the lower power consumption future of cell phone and tablet computing.

But consider this also, the last article I wrote about Tilera’s product plans regarding cloud computing in a box. ARM chips could easily be the basis for much lower power, much higher density computing clouds. Imagine a GooglePlex style datacenter running ARM CPUs on cookie trays instead of commodity Intel parts. That’s a lot of CPUs and a lot less power draw, both big pluses for a Google design team working on a new data center. True, legacy software concerns might over rule a switch to lower power parts. But if the cost of electricity would offset the opportunity cost of switching to a new CPU (an having to re-compile software for the new chip) then Google would be crazy not to seize up on this.

computers technology wintel

Intel Debuts New Atom System-on-Chip Processor

This is a an Altera Flex FPGA with 20,000 cell...
Image via Wikipedia

At an IDF keynote, Intel launched “Tunnel Creek,” a new Atom E600 SoC processor. One particular processor detailed is codenamed “Stellarton,” which consists of the Atom E600 processor paired with an Altera FPGA on a multi-chip package that provides additional flexibility for customers who want to incorporate proprietary I/O or acceleration.

via Intel Debuts New Atom System-on-Chip Processor.

Intel has announced a future product that pairs an Intel Atom processor with a Virtex FPGA. Now this is interesting, I just mentioned FPGA (field programmable gate array) chips and out of the blue Intel has summoned the same chip and married it to a little Atom core processor. They say it could be used as an accelerator of some sort. I’m wondering what specifically they had in mind (something very esoteric and niche like a TCP/IP offload processor). I would like to see some touting of its possible uses and not just say, “We want to see what happens.” Unfortunately the way the competition works in Consumer Electronics, you never tell people what’s inside. You let folks like iFixit do a teardown and put pictures up. You let industry websites research all the chips and what they cost, estimate the ones that are custom Integrated Circuits and report the cost to manufacture the device. That’s what they do with every Apple iPhone these days.

It would be cool if Intel could also sell this as a development kit for Stellarton’s users. Keep the price high enough to prevent people from releasing product based just on the kit’s CPU, but low enough to get people to try out some interesting projects. I’m guessing it would be a great tool to use for video transcoding, Mux/DeMuxing for video streams, etc. If anyone does release a shipping product thought it would be cool if they put the “Stellarton Inside” logo, so we know that FPGAs are doing the heavy lifting. The other possibility Intel mentions is to use the FPGA as a proprietary I/O so possibly like an Infiniband network interface? I still have hopes it’s used in the Consumer Electronics world.